NAB 2022 Perspectives: EVS’s Nicolas Bourdon, Peter Schut Discuss Future of Media Network Infrastructure
NAB 2022 was a chance for industry professionals to see how key companies have been transformed in the past three years, whether through acquisition, innovation, or both. In May 2020, EVS acquired Axon, a move that greatly expanded the type of technologies EVS offers, bringing in another level of expertise on media-network infrastructure. And it was on full display at the show last month in Las Vegas.
“We intend to create an ecosystem for the creation of content, for the management of content, and for the distribution of content in different types of environments,” says Nicolas Bourdon, chief marketing officer, EVS. “We realized we had a gap on the media-infrastructure side, which was why we decided to acquire Axon. Axon is a big pillar of our solution, with processing on one side and monitoring control and resource management on the other. And coming out of that are some new products and solutions.”
The MediaInfra Strada turnkey router embodies that vision, bringing SDI signals into an IP environment via third-party Arista switches, EVS Neuron frames, and a server running Cerebrum. Neuron’s Ethernet-based architecture supports various advanced video-processing capabilities, such as frame synchronization, up/downconversion, color correction, HDR conversion, audio (de)embedding, and audio shuffling while Cerebrum allows control of various processes.
Historically, adds Peter Schut, SVP, media infrastructure, EVS Broadcast Equipment, Axon has not had a lot of success in the North American market so the combination with EVS is not only a merger without product-portfolio overlap but also a merger that gives Axon technology strong reach into the U.S. market.
“North America has taken off with some big, big projects,” he says. “That’s good news as it means [that] what we thought theoretically would work actually works. Strada is designed for the replacement of an SDI router but with IP. And we made it turnkey so they could be up and running in about a day. The fun part is, [clients] started using it and asked if they could do [things beyond just routing] and suddenly they were using the whole ecosystem.”That adoption among customers is part of a new era in technology deployments when the new tools offer a wider assortment of functionality than those in the era of dedicated hardware.
“It’s a bit of a Trojan-horse approach,” says Schut. “The customer has time to think, and then they start asking ‘What else can I do?’ That is by design.”
Bourdon adds that a combination of common infrastructure resources and a dynamic approach to how the frontend of a production and the backend can change for a program’s needs gives facilities the chance to quickly change from, say, one type of program segment to another.
Says Schut, “The intelligence of Cerebrum is key to that as it connects the different tools we offer with a lot of third-party tools. We’ve built over 150 protocols for third-party control and think it will be popular for sports productions, where you may just have a touchscreen as your interface for replay, camera racking, or audio. That makes it interesting for things like the college-sports market.”
Live asset-management control, monitoring, routing, processing, and replay is where EVS currently excels, but, according to Bourdon, the company is looking to expand. “We’re working on multiviewing, and live editing is also in our roadmap because we know that. if we want to be No. 1, we need to accelerate with applications that will be a service.”
Cloud-based services are also part of the discussion, and Schut adds that a mixed, hybrid environment or “balanced computing where the cloud services are used to bring balance to the computer processing in the on-premises environment” is a solid strategy.
“We will help customers identify the deployment that works best — whether it’s an on-premises data center, private cloud, or public cloud — [because] the new backbone of all the EVS development is open to any type of cloud environment,” he says. “And Cerebrum plays a key role allocating the resources and managing the abstraction layer on top of that.”
Schut sees it as a bit like being in a kitchen where you may have multiple tools to get the job done and want to use the best tool for the task.
“You need to use the right technology and the right approach for the job,” he says. “That’s why I think the balanced computing approach is the future. There will be on-prem, and then, sometimes, the cloud will be great. Other times, the cloud won’t be efficient.”
For example, Schut explains, a 24/7 application running in the cloud is probably not efficient (and may actually be more expensive). “But, if you just need something for an hour or a week, then cloud-based services make sense.”
Another project the company is working on are cloud-based replay services, specifically for the second-tier market or to allow a top-tier production to more easily add replay channels.
“A lot of customers are willing to have the servers onsite because they want to have the assurance that the replay will be working,” says Bourdon. “But they also want more flexibility in getting content through to the cloud. We’re looking at that.”